Land of the Kroffts Kings of Satur­day morn­ing TV back in lime­light

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY JOSEPH SZAD­KOWSKI

The pro­duc­ers who brought a large-headed dragon, talk­ing hats and Fred­die the Flute to Satur­day morn­ing tele­vi­sion are re­turn­ing to the lime­light, thanks to one of their most mem­o­rable pro­grams.

Sid and Marty Krofft’s “Land of the Lost,” di­rected by Brad Sil­ber­ling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Se­ries of Un­for­tu­nate Events”) and star­ring Will Fer­rell, hit the­aters June 5, and the orig­i­nal creators could not be hap­pier.

“This is a mir­a­cle,” 72-year old Marty Krofft says. “We went from hero to zero back to hero, and we’re at the top again.”

The broth­ers, known for such sur­real, kid-friendly 1970s pro­gram­ming as “H.R. Pufn­stuf,” “Lid­dsville” and “Sig­mund and the Sea Mon­sters,” have been push­ing since 1995 to get a big­bud­get “Land of the Lost” movie made.

It took the right pro­duc­tion team fa­mil­iar with the Kroffts’ sig­na­ture style — campy, col­or­ful fan­tasy realms pop­u­lated by pup­pets and ac­tors in out­landish cos­tumes — to make it hap­pen.

“Every­one who worked on this movie grew up with our shows, so there was a great re­spect for the char­ac­ters,” 79year old Sid Krofft says.

For those not fa­mil­iar with the live-action tele­vi­sion se­ries dur­ing its 1974-76 run, Marty says, “We were get­ting 8s and 9s in the rat­ings, and that meant we could have been prob­a­bly in the top 15 in prime time,” de­spite air­ing on Satur­day morn­ings.

“Land of the Lost” fea­tured a fa­ther, son and daugh­ter team of ex­plor­ers caught in a di­men­sional warp and stuck in a pre­his­toric world filled with a species of lizard men called Sleestak, a hairy prim­i­tive boy named Cha-Ka (Chaka in the film script) and a grumpy Tyran­nosaurus rex.

The se­ries’ ori­gins were tied to Sid Krofft’s fas­ci­na­tion with the 1940 movie “One Mil­lion B.C.,” star­ring Vic­tor Ma­ture. He says it “scared the hell out of me.”

The duo also bet that “Land’s” crea­tures and a Swiss Fam­ily Robin­son-themed story would help re­tain the ag­ing au­di­ence that had stuck with them through five suc­cess­ful tele­vi­sion se­ries.

“We knew that ev­ery adult and ev­ery child on this planet was crazy about di­nosaurs,” Sid Krofft says. “We also struck gold with char­ac­ters that kids could to­tally re­late to and go on ad­ven­tures with.”

The new film plays up the laughs through par­ody and re- places the fam­ily with a team of re­searchers, but it still fea­tures plenty of di­nosaurs — a com­puter-gen­er­ated va­ri­ety that Marty Krofft calls “the best I’ve ever seen.”

The pre­his­toric beasts are light-years ahead of their pre­de­ces­sors, hav­ing been cre­ated by a team of more than 150 de­sign­ers us­ing a full com­ple­ment of 3-D mod­el­ing tech­nol­ogy and led by Os­car-winning VFX su­per­vi­sor Bill Westen­hofer.

Marty Krofft re­calls that in the old days, their ver­sion of a dif­fi­cult spe­cial ef­fect in­volved shoot­ing a guy walk­ing down the street.

“We did not have any money,” he says. “Even though we had [award-winning vis­ual ef­fects and crea­ture mod­el­ers] Gene War­ren and Wah Chang, the di­nosaurs were a real chal­lenge.”

A mix­ture of stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion and even pup­petry was used as the di­nosaurs were shot on 35 mm film. Un­for­tu­nately, the live-action show was shot on video. The frames-per-sec­ond dif­fer­ence played havoc with equip­ment when the film­mak­ers tried to marry the two.

“We had to have Dis­ney en­gi­neers al­ways com­ing in and tak­ing a pro­jec­tor apart,” Marty Krofft says. “One night we showed up at 3 a.m., and they had like a thou­sand pieces on the floor, and I looked at Sid and said, ‘We’re fin­ished; this is never go­ing to work.’ “

The new film also fea­tures a nod to the past with some de­cid­edly low-tech ef­fects. Fans will rec­og­nize the cave open­ing and Cha-Ka, and the Sleestak and Enik are close to the orig­i­nals.

As far as how the duo would like to be re­mem­bered, Marty Krofft quips, “Who cares?”

More se­ri­ously, he says: “God gave us some creative tal­ent, we had the op­por­tu­nity to get it on, and what­ever we did, we al­ways took care of the fans. We would like them to take care of us on June 5.”

SID & MARTY KROFFT PIC­TURES INC.

A world all their own: (Top Left) “Land of the Lost” pro­duc­ers Sid and Marty Krofft on the set. (Top Right) Sleestak lizard men on the prowl. (Bot­tom) A scene from the 1970s Satur­day morn­ing tele­vi­sion show “Land of the Lost.”

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